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US calls on GECOM to declare results based on recounted votes

Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Burea.u of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Michael Kozak

United States (US) Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Michael Kozak on Wednesday called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to declare results of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections based on the national vote recount.

“The Caribbean Court has ruled. It’s time for GECOM to declare the winner of Guyana’s election based on the national vote recount. The will of Guyana’s voters cannot be ignored,” Kozak said hours after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) threw out the Guyana Court of Appeal’s ruling that “more votes cast” means “more valid votes cast”.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has already said the Department of State has been instructed to take action ‘to ensure that those who undermine Guyana’s democracy are held accountable.”

If used, the recounted votes will give the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) a victory, but if Lowenfield’s latest report, in which he excluded 115,000 votes, is accepted by GECOM, A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) will be declared the winner

The CCJ, which is Guyana’s final appellate court,  said the features of “valid” votes are clearly spelt out in the Representation of the People Act.

Kozak’s renewed call for the recounted valid votes totalling 460,352 should be used came against the background of Political Scientists, Dr. David Hinds and Mr. Peter Wickham earlier Wednesday said that with the CCJ referring the decision back to GECOM, the Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield could very well refuse to submit a report based on the regional court’s ruling or even resubmit his now invalidated report.

The CCJ also Wednesday unanimously decided to invalidate Lowenfield’s report in the same breath as it overturned the Guyana Court of Appeal’s decision because it had no jurisdiction to invoke Article 177(4) which had to do with the qualification of a sitting president or the interpretation of the constitution. “That decision was made without jurisdiction on the part of that Court. It was therefore not final and is of no effect. This Court is entitled and required to declare it invalid. Logically, the report of 23 June issued by the CEO which was based on it is similarly of no effect,” the CCJ said.

The CCJ also frowned on the Guyana Court of Appeal’s decision to insert the word “valid”  unnecessarily as that impliedly allowed the Chief Election Officer to “engage unilaterally in an unlawful validation exercise” which trespassed on the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court to settle electoral disputes after a winner is declared.  “It was inconsistent with the constitutional framework for the CEO or GECOM to disenfranchise thousands of electors in a seemingly non transparent and arbitrary manner, without the due processes established in Article 163 and the Validation Act,” the CCJ said.